Not too long ago, I asked a friend what he would be interested in seeing me talk about on my blog. And he gave me a very good topic. He asked me what I do when my inspiration runs dry mid-writing or when another idea comes along that captivates me despite being in the middle of something else. Do I shelve my current project? Come back to it later? Or what?
The answer to that is really that it depends.
It used to be that I would have multiple projects going all at the same time, but I found over time that it stressed me out. I would realize that nothing was finished – I couldn’t put any one thing out because they were all in states of incomplete-ness. I would find that I was generally just so easily distracted that I could go on and on and stockpile a million works-in-progress. I would have this on-again-off-again relationship with all of my work — I would love it one day and hate the sight of the next. Ultimately I found myself accomplishing…very little.
Now, I try to finish things. Or I at least try to get things broken down into pieces that can be ‘finished’ for a time so I can do a little bit of something else and then come back to it. Or, if absolutely necessary, I finish it even if it means it isn’t absolutely perfect. Perfect is an illusion anyway.
Mostly, though, I do try to balance. For example: I have a several things I’m writing while I’m also working on editing my novel from NaNoWriMo. I know that I cannot do this all in one sitting and I also know that I will lose interest if it’s the only thing I’m doing. So, instead of focusing on just that for as long as it takes, I’m doing it in chapter chunks. That way, I’m satisfied with my progress while balancing out my wandering interests.
My recommendation if you find yourself getting burnt out in the middle of something and getting drawn to something else is this: give it 24 hours. Make a note of this new fantastic idea and sleep on it. If it’s still amazing the next day and you want nothing more than to sink your teeth into it, set a date for when you are coming back to the project you’re currently on. Literally. Get a calendar, plot out how long you think this awesome new something will go and then say, “Okay, on May 1, I’m going to pick this other thing back up.” You’ll know two things by May 1: if that new thing was really as great as it seemed and if the original project is worth going back to.
Are you a starter or a finisher? Do you chronically collect works-in-progress, or do you try to finish anything you start, no matter how crappy it gets? Tell me about it on my Facebook!